Finland will deploy the first batch of new US-made F-35 fighter jets to the country’s northernmost region, Lapland, when Helsinki receives the aircraft in four years’ time, the country’s air force has revealed.
On Friday, Brigadier General Juha-Pekka Keränen, the Nordic country’s air force commander, said that the “F-35 fleet will be commissioned first to the Lapland Air Force in Rovaniemi in 2026.” The airbase in question is situated seven kilometers north of the city of Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle, which is famous for its Santa Claus village. This is Finland’s northernmost base hosting fighter jets.
In December 2021, Helsinki announced its decision to purchase a fleet of 64 F-35 stealth multirole combat aircraft to replace its aging F/A-18 Hornets. The first F-35s are expected to arrive in Rovaniemi in 2026, with the rest of the fleet becoming operational by 2030.
Should Finland’s application to join NATO, which Helsinki lodged on May 17, be approved, the number of the military alliance’s F-35s in northern Europe will increase considerably, as NATO member state Norway has already received 34 of the 52 new aircraft. While most of Norway’s F-35 fleet is stationed at Orlandet airbase in the south of the country, several aircraft are based north of the Arctic Circle, at Evenes airbase, as part of NATO’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) forces.
On Thursday, two F-35s flew from that base to intercept two Russian planes over the Barents Sea, which had not violated Norwegian airspace.